Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31

Q: How do you know when you've spent altogether too much time in your pajamas?

A: I will show you.

Behold, I have worn a hole into my nightgown:


Mind you, it's a small hole, but it's a hole nonetheless.

In my defense, these pajamas were a gift from my cousins at the time of my first surgery (in June 2010), and they've seen more than the usual amount of wear and tear during the recovery of the three surgeries which have followed.

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30

Two quotes I read on Facebook this morning, that I've been thinking about all day:

“When you surrender and stop resisting and stop trying to change that which you can’t change, but be in the moment, be fully open to the blessings you’ve already received and those that are yet to come and stand in that space of gratitude … and look at where you are and how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished - when you can claim THAT and SEE that, the literal vibration of your life will change.”

- Oprah Winfrey
 
"When we are able to be thankful for what we have…truly thankful, not just words we recite but a feeling of thanks from within, our world outlook changes."
 
- Unknown
 
You know how much I love a good, long run-on sentence, and Oprah does not disappoint. Also, if you know me at all (or even if you don't know me at all, but have read the last five posts here), you know how much BOTH of these quotes tell the story of my life right now.
 
Here's the thing, people: Cancer is changing me. It has been, all along, but it has picked up the pace. I have more love in my heart - and in my life, all around me - than I ever would have thought possible. (And I am a girl who has always had a lot of love going on.) I am more accepting, more patient, more loving and generally more at peace than I ever have been. I am becoming very Zen, which is so very curious to me, as I have always been more than a little bit of a control freak and a Nervous Nelly.
 
The last several months have been difficult, but it has been worth it. My surgical wounds have healed. My swelling is almost gone. I am alive, in every sense of the word. I am grateful. The vibration of my life is changing, and that is a fascinating thing to see and feel.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 28

I'm sitting here in my recliner, listening to sheets of rain come down outside my window and... I'm, once again, struggling to breathe.

Honestly, monsoon season is KILLING me!

Well... okay, that was a strong word. It isn't actually killing me, but it sure has complicated my ability to breathe like a normal person. A 5 hour surgery + a respiratory infection + heavy, moist air = me, taking short and shallow breaths just to keep my head above water.

I tell you, sometimes I listen to myself breathing and think "I sound just like that black lab puppy that lives downstairs, just panting away."

My dumb lungs.

On the upside, as I've sat here, in the desert - inside my apartment with all windows shut tight as a drum, because by now I've learned that rain really does make a different in how well I breathe - I've been super, duper glad that I'm not at home this weekend. The higher elevation, plus the fact that it's been stormy and raining there all weekend... I tell you, there is a Grand Design. Even without the complications of the respiratory infection, my lungs have been having a tough time with the humidity. I cannot even imagine how hard it would have been to breathe up there. Isn't it great that I got sick (and stuck) here?

I tell you - even as I struggle to breathe - things happen (or don't happen) for a reason. I love my life!

The End.

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27 - Afternoon

The verdict is in:

Ear Infection and
Upper Respiratory Infection

Who's glad she was able to see her doctor today? Ding, ding, ding! ... Me.

No wonder I'm wheezing when I breathe. And I'm SO lucky that I was able to get in. I called the doctor right after typing my last post, and they'd just had a cancellation for an appointment - the only opening they had all day.

Miracles happen, people. They really do.

I say this as a woman with an upper respiratory infection that very well could have turned into pneumonia over the weekend without an antibiotic. (Did you know that pneumonia is one of the most common illnesses that people come down with when they don't have a spleen? I did, because they vaccinated me. And yet, here I am, on the verge of pneumonia (per the doc)... but not quite there.)

Halle-freakin-lujah, I'm grateful for modern medicine. (By which I mean: cough syrup with codeine. No more coughing, lots more sleeping.)

July 27

It turns out that my lack of nausea and other stomach-related issues yesterday were NOT a fluke. Hallelujah! I am still gagging every time I try to swallow a pill (every time - yesterday I told Mom that I thought maybe I should find myself a hypnotist to see if they could make that instant reflex go away, and I wasn't kidding), but I haven't actually thrown up in a week now and I haven't felt like I was going to for 36 hours.

It's like a Christmas (in July) miracle!

But I'm still not going to be going home today, even though my sweet father drove down last night, so he could serve as my taxi driver, if I did end up feeling well enough to go. (How sweet is he? I love him!)

It seems that I've traded my stomach issues for an ear ache and a sore throat. The sore/itchy ear started yesterday morning, and by last night, my right tonsil was swollen and sore. (Yay for not having a spleen and/or immune system!)

So, instead of packing for a weekend at home, this morning I am making a phone call to my primary care doctor to see if she can fit me in today. If this is something that needs antibiotics, I don't want to go through the weekend without them.

And the amazing thing is, I'm totally at peace with all of this. I'd wanted so desperately to go home. I prayed so fervently for my stomach issues to go away - and they did. And then something else came up. Stuff just happens sometimes, and what I've learned over the past several months is that if it's too hard to make something happen - be it a lunch date with a casual friend, a relationship with anyone who's not Nathan Fillion (just cracked myself up), or a trip out of town - there's a reason that it's not working out and I should just let it go.

I realized, while talking to my girl Genevra last night, that I had let this trip go. Too many obstacles were in my way, and my health is far more important to me than a trip home. (Even though I would DIE for a taco from Eva's right about now.)

I learned an important lesson this week. (Again. Why I keep having to re-learn this is beyond me, but hopefully, this time it will stick.) The Lord is in charge, and I will be given what I need. I may not always be given what I want (in this case, strength and health to make a trip home), but I will always be given what I need (I needed my stomach issues to be gone, and they are). Time and again, He has given me what I need, whether it be through direct answers to my own prayers, or through one of many, many people in my life who love me. This week, He relieved my nausea. I know it sounds like a small thing, but to me it was signal. Also this week, He has given me peace with spending a weekend in Mesa when I'd wanted to be home. (This is not one, but two, Christmas miracles in my book, and I'm incredibly grateful for both of them.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26

I woke up this morning feeling better. Both emotionally and physically. (Read: I don't feel like I'm going to puke, for the first time in over a week.) Of course, I haven't really eaten anything yet... so it could be a fluke, but I'm hoping that it's an answer to prayer and I really won't have the stomach issues today that I've had for the last week.

Wish me luck! ... If I can make it through today without wanting to throw up (or having major poop issues), I think I'll try to go home tomorrow.

Here's hoping (I mean, really, really) hoping this isn't a fluke...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25 - Late

My 20 year high school reunion is this weekend. ... And I really want to be there, but I don't know if I'll be able to go.

I hate the cancer. I hate it.

*FYI: I also hate recovering from surgery. And this one's been a beast.

See, the thing is... even though I'm a lot better than I have been, I am not well. I am so much stronger than I was even a week ago, but I don't know if I have it in me to make the 3 hour trip home. And I hate that.

I hate that I am nauseated almost all of the time. I hate that my bowels don't know if they're coming or going. I hate that I'm so tired that I have to take at least one (4-5 hour) nap a day. I hate that I can't stand up straight or walk like a normal person or laugh out loud.

Just for a weekend, I want my life to be normal. I want to be able to see friends from high school, some of whom I haven't seen in ten years. I want to be able to talk with them and laugh with them. I want to be able to hug people without fear of someone touching my back or side in the wrong place and hurting me. I want to be in Taylor, to smell the grass and the corn fields and the summer rain. I want to sleep in my old room with the window open. I want to hear the sounds of the ball park, and know everyone I see when I go "in to town". ... I want to go home.

There are so many things that I want, and right now - tonight - all of them feel out of reach.

Tomorrow, I promise, I'll go back to my usual upbeat and positive self. But right now, I am sitting in my recliner, tears streaming down my face, and I am thinking that it is high time that I am good and honest about how hard this all is sometimes. Too many people think I'm strong all the time, and that I'm handling this all incredibly well. Neither of those statements could possibly be true. No one is strong all of the time, and there are some things that are more difficult than others to deal with. Most of the time, I can be strong and I can juggle my health against what I want/need to do in my life. But some of the time, I can't. Some of the time, it's too much, and all I can do is sit and cry and wish for a slightly different life with significantly better health.

There are a lot of blessings that my poor health has brought me. I have clarity now that I didn't have three years ago, and in a lot of ways my life is richer now that it was before, but on nights like tonight - when I am overwhelmed by how poorly I feel and the realization that there is something that I want to do, but may not be able to do, stares me right in the face - I can't help but hate the cancer. Fiercely.

July 25 - Christmas in July

Merry Christmas!!!
(in July)









Many, many moons ago, I lived with my cousin Julie (and our friend Elise, who we called Weez ... if you'd ever heard her laugh, you'd know where the nickname came from) and we would celebrate Christmas in July. Every year, we'd decorate our apartment. Put up a tree, throw garland around the place, make fudge and sugar cookies, watch holiday-themed movies... you get the picture. Every year. We'd have a Christmas party and invite our friends and family. One year we assigned our Cousin (with a capital C) Greg to read from Luke. Another year, I made both homemade eggnog and peppermint ice cream and we had so many friends/family come to the party that it had to go out onto the lawn. The year we lived in the blue house, we had a standing invitation to anyone who knew us to come over on Friday night to watch a Christmas movie with us. We'd publicize the week before what we'd be watching (Holiday Inn, White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life) and anyone who wanted to come over for sugar cookies and a bit of holiday cheer was welcome.

Our house was a party. Who's kidding who? ... We were a party!

And one of the serious perks of living in Utah was the celebration of Pioneer Day on the 24th. Pioneer Day is a state holiday in Utah, so I'd be off work that day (giving us more time to bake and prepare - Julie was a teacher, so she was off all summer, anyway). ... Also, Pioneer Day was one of the two times a year that fireworks were legal. For the day of, prior to and after the holiday, fireworks were legal. Julie and I used to "carol" with sparklers. Up and down the halls of every complex in our ward, we'd go. One of us would light the sparklers while the other knocked on the door, so we'd be perfectly poised, sparklers in hand, ready to get out one quick verse of "We wish you a Merry Christmas (in July)" before the sparklers burned out. We had it timed perfectly, the singing would end right when the sparkler burned out.

Christmas in July was a magical thing. It's amazing, how easy it is to feel the spirit of Christmas as soon as you start to decorate/bake/watch movies/sing holiday songs. We had a whole lot of fun in those years, and we made a whole lot of memories. Not a July 25th goes by that I don't remember sparklers, peppermint ice cream, sugar cookies, my grammy's jingle bell earrings, and the BYU 3rd Ward. Christmas is too fun to only have it once a year...

And so I say to you, my internet friends... Merry Christmas (in July), and may the rest of your year be glorious and bright!

July 25

I have the coolest and most awesome friends on the planet. (As you're reading this, friend of mine, I'm sure you are nodding your head and thinking to yourself, "Why, yes. Yes, I am the most awesome friend on the planet." And you deserve to be thinking that, because you are.)

I mean, I have people calling, emailing, texting, Facebooking me every day. ... Not the same people every day. That would be excessive. And border-line stalker-ish. But someone, or multiple people, contact me ever day to tell me that I am loved, that I am strong enough to do this really hard thing, that I am Awesome, etc.

I have friends who bring over eggs (thanks, Edholms!) because they know I prefer fresh eggs to store-bought. I have friends who run over hummus (thanks, Lizzie!) because they find out that I'm having a craving. I have friends who drive me to and from the doctor (thanks, Whit and Cassidy!). I have friends who cut up a whole watermelon every week for me, so I can have it for my bedtime snack every night (thanks, Jo!).

I tell you... I have the most awesome friends. And I'm going to stop naming names of the people in my neighborhood who've helped me or brought me prizes, because I'm sure to forget someone, and that would be no good at all.

Instead, I'll move on to the prizes that I've received in the mail over the last week. I tell you what, it's hard for me to open my mail. Too many envelopes have information I don't want (bills... you are my nemesis), so I find myself putting off opening the mail. It just sits. For days. Almost for a week sometimes. (Note to anyone who ever sends baked goods: label your box that it needs to be opened ASAP, otherwise it's apt to sit in the apartment office - and then on my counter - for 7-10 days before I get around to it.)

Well, I recently summoned up the courage to open everything that had been sitting, and would you look at the haul I got...

From Genevra, her favorite laxative. I love her, for about a bazillion reasons, not the least of which is that she knows how important the ability to poo is for me right now. So, she sent me what works best for her. Best. Friend. Ever.



And Mich is at it again. I do loooooove her and her Dollar Store packages! This is a (small) section of a super hero fold-out pop rocks candy pack that she somehow found in a $1 bin. As you may recall, Mich loves to add commentary to any boyfriends/super heroes that she sends my way. Hulk has a conversation bubble with three, Hulk-like, words: "HULK SMASH CANCER". ... Ha! I do love me some Hulk! (He was my favorite in the recent Avengers movie, it is true.) I also love me some Mich.


Would you like to see what else she sent me? That's right, an orange safety vest. For my walks. ... Like the bright red walker isn't warning enough that there's a person/obstacle moving verrrrry slowly across the road, now I have this fluorescent orange vest to wear on outings as well! Mich is so thoughtful. I love her. Best. Friend. Ever.


And would you check this out?! This came in an unmarked envelope with a Mesa address. I was nervous as all get-out to open it, because there wasn't a name on the return address. Hello, Jester'Z sent me a get well card! How in the world they know who I am, or that I had surgery (or where I live, now that I think about it...) is beyond me, but how GREAT are they to send me not only a card, but two free passes?!

Reason #1762 that I will tout Jester'Z as the best entertainment in town until the day I die. I love them! Best. Improv. Comedy. Club. Ever.


And would you look at these? My new internet friend Tracy sent me enlarged prints of the following two pictures that he took with his very own camera.


He'd posted these on Facebook, and when I commented on both of them that I thought they were awesome (seriously, would you look at all the color?!), he enlarged prints and sent them my way. That he took the time to contact a mutual friend in order to get my mailing address, to send me something that he knew I had liked (literally) was amazing to me. How kind. How thoughtful. ... How totally unexpected. Best. New. Internet. Friend. Ever.



And.... Brea. Brea came over last week (it was Mom's birthday) and she brought us a bunch of presents -enlarged prints of family pics from the bbq we had pre-surgery, balloons, cake ... and yellow roses. My goodness, they were beautiful. They opened like real roses on a bush, and they smelled like heaven. Best. Sister-in-law. Ever.


I tell you what. Cancer sucks, and so does surgery. But the love that so many people show during times of hardship never ceases to amaze me. ... Also, the swag. The swag is pretty sweet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24

Today was my follow-up with Dr. G and Dr. H. As you may recall, at my last appt (you can read all about it here if you missed it) Dr. G was unsure of whether or not additional radiation treatments would be recommended at this time. He was going to check with the radiation oncologist and would let me know. Well... he didn't let me know. He had Scheduling call and make an appointment for me to come in and see both him and Dr. H. (Insert rapid heart rate here. And not because I think Dr. H is dreamy. Oh, no. I was reading all kind of things into this double appointment. All kinds of dark, cancer treatment (radiation AND chemo?!) plans into this.)

So, basically, I've been on pins and needles and an emotional wreck for a week, waiting for this appointment. The hardest thing in all of this has always been the unknown. The combination of a little bit of actual and factual information plus the imagination of a 6 year old child....  Geeze Louise, can I get myself psyched out.

Anyhoo... Today, I had my follow-ups, and.... No radiation. (For now. If it comes back, they'll do something called the Bracci method (sp?) where they'll  put four catheters in my side and shoot a radiation "seed" directly at any new tumors. ... Disgusting. But it sounds effective, so whatever.) No chemo. No treatments. Just continuing to heal from this surgery. Hallelujah!

We talked about pain management. I've been trying to wean myself off the narcotics, but that's a hard thing to do when the only OTC drug I can take is Tylenol. I've been alternating prescription pain meds and Tylenol, but without Ibuprofen to switch off to, it's been hard. Dr. H gave me a prescription for Altram, a non-narcotic pain reliever which is neither Tylenol nor Ibuprofen. I officially go on that at my 1:30 AM medication this morning. Wish me luck.

And speaking of Dr. H - and for any of you who've wondered what my energy level is like these days - let me just tell/show you... Dr. H and I are past the point in our (I know, imaginary) relationship where there's any kind of pretense.

This, my friends, is what I looked like when I went to the doctor(s) today. No make-up. I haven't worn make-up since June 20th, kids. (Which is saying something. After surgeries #1 and #2, I was reaching for my mascara by day 3 in the hospital. I am a make-up loving fool. .... And yet, I haven't held a mascara wand in my hand in over a month. This surgery has completely taken it out of me. Between my right arm that seems to be stuck to my side and a core that hurts so badly that I can't bear the thought of leaning over the counter in my bathroom... No mascara for this girl.)



And the fuzzy baby-bird hair is super attractive, too, I know. ... I put this bun in my hair three days ago. Since then, I've gone on six walks and slept nine times. Every time I go out into the wind, wisps of my hair break free. Every time I nap, a little bit more pulls out. And yet, I don't re-do the bun. Not even to go see Dr. H. He's either gonna love me or he's not. And let's face it folks, if he loves me, it'll have a lot more to do with my wit and charm than anything else. The man, has, after all, seen me in the hospital, at my very worst, on a gurney as they were getting ready to move me to another room. (He kindly reminded me of that special moment today. Bless his heart for remembering the little things. .... Oh, and for rubbing it in my face that he did, too, visit me in the hospital, it was just too soon for me to have any recollection of him having been there.) So, given that was the last time he'd seen me, the no mascara/baby-bird hair thing is a step up. Or sideways. Or something.

In semi-related news, the physical therapy on my arm is going well. Today was my third appointment with PT, and even though she stretches me in ways that I didn't know I could move in (literally), I sort of love her. My arm will come just a little above my shoulder now, if I lift it to the side - and I can get it about 4 inches higher than I could last week when I try to lift it above my head. I mean, I still have verrrrrry limited movement. But I have more movement than I did a week ago. So, all of the weirdie little exercises that she has me doing (pushing my hand against the recliner, washing walls, lifting a can of tomatoes out to my side and holding it for 3 seconds, etc.) are working. Physical Therapy is a whole new world of knowledge for me. Every time I see her, it's for an hour and she talks non-stop, telling me what she's doing and why and how it will help me get better. At the rate I'm going, we're hoping that my arm will be working again within a few weeks. I'm so excited about something (anything!) healing quickly. When it comes to my body, I'll take whatever I can get, and PT has been yielding some pretty sweet results.

And you know that a doctor-related post wouldn't be complete without some excellent nurse-foot-in-mouth humor, so, in parting, allow me to share my most recent "I can't believe you just said that" story about a nurse weighing me in.

As always, when I see the doctor, they take my blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen count. Oh, and weight. So, the nurse sets the scale to zero and has me step on. They have their default settings in metric (probably so as not to freak out patients who don't want to know what they weigh). She wrote down the metric, and then asked if I wanted to see the pounds. I said sure. She switched it to pounds, then coughed and said "Wow! You're really tall. I never would have guessed that you were that big!" .... Yeah, she said the word "big". Awesome.

* I'd like to note that I currently weigh less than I ever have in my entire adult life.

Mom and I have been mocking her outburst all night long. You wouldn't believe how many ways "I can't believe you're that big!" and/or "Wow! You're really tall." can work their way into conversation around here.

I love it when nurses have commentary when they weigh me. My other favorite nurse/scale story is when the nurse from my old doctor's office weighed me, and conversationally asked if I watched The Biggest Loser. When I told her that I didn't, she told me that I should - as she pointedly looked at the numbers on the scale.

Ahhhhh.... nurses who can't help but make inappropriate comments at the scale. They are my favorite.

And on that note, I'm off to have a bedtime snack before I hit the hay. Since I learned today that I'm tall enough to hide my true weight, I'm not at all concerned about calories after 10:00 PM. (Insert snarky laugh here.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23

BREAKING NEWS!

This morning, Mom and I did our 1 1/2 mile walk in an hour. (Two weeks ago, this walk took two hours.)

We're super proud. (Yeah, both of us. I am super proud of myself. She is super proud of me in the way most parents are when their 2 year old learns how to do something new and/or difficult.)

And the most amazing thing? I did half a mile of that walk hands-free. As in, no walker. Half a mile, consecutively (not the usual, "You push the walker for 50 feet and then I'll take it back" trade off). Impressive, no?

... And then I came home and almost puked from the exhaustion and exertion. (Listen, it takes a lot of stomach muscles to walk. You don't know this until you don't have any, but trust me when I say that walking without support is a workout and a half if you don't have a core.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

July 21

It's been a month.

One month ago, I had the surgery to (hopefully) end all surgeries.

I'm a far cry from where I was six weeks ago, as far as being able to function on my own. But I'm also a far cry from where I was a month ago, when all I could do was lie in a hospital bed and try to breathe really, really shallow breaths, so the pain of just being alive wouldn't send me through the roof.

This morning, I walked about a third of my walk without my walker. Just me, hands held out for balance, toddling along the sidewalk on May.

This afternoon, I took a 5 1/2 hour nap that culminated in my trying to lie on my side. (I am, by nature, a side sleeper. Surgery interrupts my sleep cycles in about 179 different ways, not the least of which is that it FORCES me to sleep flat on my back. This is not natural to me.) I am pleased to report that I am now able to lie on my right hip, as long as my torso is turned and my upper body is still on my back. .... I know that doesn't sound like anything even remotely comfortable for most of you, that, in fact, it sounds like a contortionist position that you'd never EVER want to put yourself in. But for me, it is an option. A different way to lie in bed. This will give my tailbone a break, if only for a half an hour at a time.

It's been a month since I was able to lie on my side. Exactly a month. In fact, my last memory of lying on my side was in the hospital, in the prep room, as the anesthesiologists started their work before I could go into surgery.

It's been a month. An incredibly difficult, indescribably painful, often downright scary, doozy of a month. But I like to think that (most of) the truly difficult things are behind me. I like to think that in another month, the physical therapist will have my right arm moving in all the directions that the good Lord intended it to, that I'll be able to stand up in one fluid motion, without having to physically hold my stomach so there are no shooting pains associated with the movement. In one month, I'll hopefully be driving again. Here's hoping that the walker can be permanently retired to storage. I look forward to the day that my lungs can expand fully, so a yawn or the hiccups don't send me into orbit.

It takes time to get better. I know this. ... I am getting better. I know this, too. I'm grateful for the experience of having had prior surgeries, in that they have given me the knowledge that my body WILL heal. Our bodies are amazing, miraculous things. (Even the really crummy ones, like mine, can do totally awesome stuff.)

It's amazing to me, all the change that one month's time can bring about. I look forward to seeing where I'll be a month from now. .... In my mind, Nathan Fillion will just show up a week from Tuesday, take one look at me (I'll try not to have my hair in a bun that day) and want to whisk me away with him and take care of me - and my medical bills - for the rest of my life. (I know, I'm ridiculous. But you've got to admit, that would be a much more fun and exciting month to report than this last one has been... Hope springs eternal.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20

It's that time again...

What time, you ask?

FUNDRAISER TIME!



Tomorrow morning my friend Kimmie is doing a charity car wash/bake sale to benefit my (and I hope your) favorite charity: ME

Please make an effort to come if you can...

When: SATURDAY, JULY 21st from 8am - 11am (or longer if there's a line.)

Where: McDONALD'S on SOUTHERN and McCLINTOCK (NW corner), in Tempe

$5 minimum donation

*As an added bonus, Kimmie has authorized me to advertise that she has some suh-weet car wash dance moves. The dance involves rolling up her both her shorts and sleeves as high as they will go and then holding the car wash sign in such a way that it covers the rest of body so she appears to be a dancing (naked) human car wash sign. You know you want to go check that out.

**This just in from Kimmie via Facebook: We are doing Laurie's car wash RAIN or SHINE tomorrow. Why would you want to get your car washed while it rains you might ask? Because you'll be helping a friend and also because I will drop to the ground and do the worm right there on the pavement for anyone who donates over ten dollars. You can't even imagine what I will do if you donate over $20. You'll just have to come and find out!


Between the promised performances and the fact that a McDonald's breakfast sandwich is mere 50 feet away, this is a car wash benefit that you do not want to miss!

Graphics courtesty of FranklinCircleChurch.org

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17

I know, I know... there has been a certain dearth of posts here at Cancer Girl Central.

It's because Cancer Girl has been sleeping. A lot.

Here's a typical day:

I go to bed between 9:00 and 10:00. I wake up at 5:00 to go on my morning walk. We're usually home by 7:00, and I'm back in bed for my morning nap by 8:00. I usually wake up at about noon, but have been known to sleep past 2:00. (I am not kidding. I get more sleep in that morning nap than I do in any other sleeping stretch of the day/night.) I'm usually up from 2:00 - 4:00, at which point I go back to bed for my afternoon nap. Mom wakes me up from my afternoon nap at 7:00, so we can go on our night walk, which is usually over by 8:00 or 8:30. Then I come home, read for a second, take a handful of stool softeners and laxatives, and put myself right back to bed.

Do the math. I sleep far more of the daylight hours than I'm awake for, and of the hours that I'm awake, I generally spend 2-3 of them on walks in the neighborhood.

I'm so tired that I have been known to fall asleep mid-sentence in conversation, holding a cup of water in my hand or a plate of food in my lap. I routinely wake up with a start on the toilet. ... I'm awake enough to get myself into the bathroom, but I fall asleep as soon as I sit down. Literally. Multiple times a day, I scare myself half to death when I start peeing and wake up, totally disoriented. Sad, but true, story.

I haven't been blogging because I've been sleeping. In the overall scheme of things, I've decided that sleep is probably going to help heal my body faster than anything else I can do. So, when I am tired, I put myself to bed. And I get tired a lot.

But this sleeping-to-get-stronger plan seems to be working. At least a little bit. Our mile walk time has improved from an hour to 45 minutes in just one week. *I can now stand with my left hand on my hip - something that I couldn't do last week, because the internal swelling was so extreme that to have any pressure coming at me from the outside was excruciatingly painful.

*Disclaimer: as long as I have my binder on. Without the binder, this is not happening.

So, I'm improving. Slowly (very, very slowly), but surely.

I tell you, this surgery has been an entirely different animal than the last two were. Mom and I talk, all the time, about how different - about how much harder this has been - since day one. But the swelling is going down. I'm getting a little more mobility. I'm getting better, even if I'm too busy taking naps to talk about it online on a regular basis.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

July 14

Thank you!

I pretty much owe the entire world a thank you card right now. (That's not much of an exaggeration, either, I'm sorry to say.) I have a stack of thank you cards that's at least 5 inches tall calling my name, even as I type this. I have cards to write in response to friends/family who've sent packages, cards, flowers and donations. I have cards to write to thank my friends (or their husbands, really) for coming over to help my mom with the car earlier this week. I need to thank Liz for the watermelon and Rebecca for the eggs. And the list goes on and on...

I'm telling you, I have a lot of thank you cards to get out there. Right before surgery, I had Jo pick me up two books of stamps at the post office. Now, I'm starting to wonder if that will be enough.

Here's the problem, the reason why I have all of these reasons to say thank you piling up, with nary a thank you card going out... Remember how I told you that I'm having a hard time typing with my right hand? Yeah, you should see the mess that I get when I try to write with it. It's comparable to second grade boy handwriting, on a good day. (On a bad day, my 3 yr old niece could smoke me in a handwriting contest.)

So, to any and all of you out there (and I know there are a lot of you) who've done something really nice for me... Just know that it's coming. As soon as I'm able to write legibly, a thank you card is on its way. (Just don't hold your breath. My guess is that it's gonna take me getting off the pain meds before I get my motor skills back, and we're still a good week or two out from the day that I think I'll feel good enough to be narcotic-free.)

In the meanwhile, please know that I am grateful for every kindness that has been shown me, in varying forms and by literally dozens of people. I lead a charmed life (outside of the cancer ... and the subsequent surgery) and I'm so incredibly grateful for all of the people who contribute to my comfort, my happiness and my well-being. Thank you, to all of you, for all that you do.

Friday, July 13, 2012

July 13

My mama takes such good care of me!

Behold:


We have the mama-bear milk and the baby-bear milk. (A gallon is too heavy for me to lift, so she bought me my own half gallon carton so I can have some semblance of independence when I want a bowl of cereal.)

She's pretty much the nicest mom ever, and I'm glad she's mine.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12

The follow-up with the doctor

Basically, I just asked him a bunch of questions and he answered them. This is how all my doctor appointments go. The doctor walks in, shakes my hand, asks how I'm doing - then takes a seat on the rolling stool in the corner and braces himself while I pull out a piece of paper and start rattling off my questions. It's a lot of fun. (For me, anyway.) Dr. G was a good sport and answered every question I threw at him. Here's a brief synopsis of what went down:

The size of my new little friend: 11.5 x 5 centimeters. So, it hadn't grown a whole lot between the time that it was found on the CT and removed (along with half a dozen or so other organs) two weeks later. Neither the doctor nor the path report can tell me how much it weighed. This is a bit of a disappointment. (But then, I guess it's also sort of a good sign. I mean, the only tumor whose weight I know was the 22.5 pounder. I'm starting to think they only weigh them when it's something extreme. So, all things considered, I'd rather have a small enough tumor that they don't feel compelled to weigh it upon excision.)

The restricted movement of my right arm (not being able to move it above my shoulder) is most likely due to a pinched nerve when they did the main line. ("The main line" is what all those medical folks call the hole they put in and subsequent IV tube that I had coming out of my jugular. ... Gag.) The doctor prescribed physical therapy to get full motion back, I am waiting for that referral to go through.

There appears to be no timeline/expectation for how long the left side of my body will be swollen. (Surely, you aren't surprised to hear, one more time, "this was an unusual surgery, it's hard to predict how a body's going to react".) The upside is that I no longer feel, ALL THE TIME, like I've been kicked in the gut by 12 angry men. I really am only getting that insane pain now after lying in bed for more than 4 hours, or after I do something really draining... like shower and wash my hair.

The combined numbness/tingling that I feel on my left side, from about my ribcage down to just below my hip, is "normal". In time, the tingling/painful sensation should wear off and I'll most likely just be numb. I'm alright with that. In comparison to pain, especially, I heart nerve damage.

There's no obvious reason that I got a hernia last time, and it's likely that I'll get one again. (Just what I wanted to hear. ... In Opposite Land, maybe.) It seems that the more often surgery is done in the same area (hello, and welcome to the story of my life), the skin cells weaken and aren't able to heal correctly. Thus, a hernia is born. His advice was to lift as little as I can for the first 6 weeks (hi, that's what Mom's here for), to give my stomach a good start in healing. Past that, it's a crap shoot as to whether I'll be able to avoid another hernia. ... Please pray for me. I hated that hernia as much as I've ever hated anything my body's ever done to me (less growing multiple malignant tumors, that is).

I've lost just over 30 lbs in just under 3 weeks.

My platelets are getting down closer to the normal range. They're at 824,000. "Normal" is anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000. ... My platelet count in the hospital was over 1,000,000. And rising every day. They sent me home with a prescription for an Aspirin every day (just like an old man with heart problems). Apparently, it works, since I'm leveling out. I was told to take Aspirin every day for another week, and then I could lay off.

I am truly to never take pain pills other than Tylenol again. ... Prior to surgery, I'd been told not to take Ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve or anything of the sort. I knew that was for sure a pre-surgery rule, and the nurse who delivered the blow had intimated that this would be for the rest of forever. But she was a nurse - who had intimated. And it's not like I don't trust nurses (I so do), she just hadn't been totally clear/confident in her delivery of the info. I needed to hear it from the doctor, just to make sure. ... And now I am sure, I am never to take Ibuprofen, Advil or Aleve ever again. Tylenol is my new BFF, heavy on the "Forever".

The pathology report is in, and I quote: Liposarcoma, predominantly well-differentiated (with myxiod and sclerosing areas) with areas of low grade dedifferentiation, present at margins.

Translation: This is not the best path report I could have hoped for. The tumor cells were getting stronger, going a little more radical. And the margins are positive.

Deep breath.

The hardest part of the visit was Dr. G, reading this pathology report, and then looking up and across the room and saying, "I did the best I could." This, from the man, who four weeks ago, stood across from me, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, "I am confident that I can cure you", makes me want to cry. But he did do the very best he could. I know he did. I feel on a daily, if not hourly basis, that he was thorough, and that he takes his job as a surgeon very seriously. That man took anything and everything that was touching a tumor (I learned that he also took part of my diaphragm - so, tumors, hernia, left kidney, retroperitoneal tissue, spleen, portions of my colon and diaphragm). He also scooped as much fat out of my back as he possibly could. (Lipsarcoma are fat-based tumors, so he took every single bit of fatty tissue he could see, in hopes that he was taking any and all cancer cells with it.)

The margins were positive, and the tumor was just starting to go rogue. Gulp. (Taking a break for a Pollyanna Moment, I must point out that low grade dedifferentiation is SO MUCH BETTER than high grade dedifferentiation. It could - as always - be worse, so much worse.)

Dr. G's going to talk to their on-staff radiation oncologist and get his opinion on whether I would be a candidate for radiation treatments. I've had radiation before (and it was brutal, on every level and in every way), so he isn't sure that they could re-treat me, but once he and the radiation oncologist review my records from my prior treatment, they'll make a decision and let me know their thoughts. If radiation is recommended, I will do it. I will do anything (short of eating baking powder or drinking vinegar, etc.) that will increase the likelihood of stopping this from spreading. Or coming back.

I'll be honest, this pathology report is not what I was hoping for. This is not information that is easy to process, and it was not what I wanted to have to report. And yet, I am hopeful. I am still living in hope and with an ever-present prayer in my heart that this surgery was it, that it will be and stay gone.

Also, I am chanting a new affirmation to myself:

I am whole, strong, perfect, powerful, loving, harmonious, happy, healthy and cancer-free.

(I like that one even better than "Everything will be okay. Everything will be okay. Everything will be okay." - Even though I'm still telling myself that all the time, too.)

I figure that feeding myself positive thoughts - about my body and about my financial future - can't do anything but help.

They'll scan me again in four months' time to check my progress, and make sure that I'm still clean and empty in there. And then we'll continue to do scans every 3-4 months going forward.

This is my life.

I love my doctors. I'm grateful for the knowledge and expertise that they have. I feel that they take a personal interest in my care, and that means so much to me. I'm so incredibly grateful for the Lord's timing, that MD Anderson opened here in the valley just a few short months before I needed them.

This is really hard, and sometimes very scary, stuff that's coming at me. (Way worse than being at bat during a fast-pitch baseball game, which I used to think was the scariest thing that could ever happen to me in the whole wide world.) But I can do this. One day at a time, whatever it is that I need to do, I can do this. ... If only because I have to do it. There is only one other option, and lying down and giving up isn't my style.

I thank God all the time for having made me stubborn, for having injected an extra little something into my spirit that made me a fighter; and I thank my parents all the time for not ever trying to squelch that part of me. I could not have been an easy child to raise, but they let me be me. And now, here I am, entrenched in a fight that I refuse to back off of - surrounded by people who love my stubborn self and will do anything and everything they can to help me in this fight.

At the end of the day, I still love my (sometimes, really hard) life. I'm grateful for who I am, where I am, and the people (literally, all over the globe) who support me. Thank you, to all of you (original 13 and beyond), for all that you do to sustain me emotionally, spiritually and, right now, financially. I couldn't possibly do it without you. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10

I went to the doctor this morning, and I have a post and a half to write about all the questions I had and the answers he gave me.

I mean, it's gonna be a long one. (And this is me, saying this, so consider yourself duly warned that you'll need to have had a lunch break prior to sitting down to read this post, because you're gonna be here for a while.)

But this long post won't be written tonight. I missed my evening nap (should have been in bed by 5:00), and I'm too tired to type clearly (or at least, clearly AND easily). So, instead of writing a long post, I thought it might be fun to show you just how illiterate I get when I'm tired and the semi-paralysis of my right hand sets in.

Remember, this is for fun. I give you a paragraph, completely unedited, written in my current (exhausted) state:

Sine of tiym I'm sure have thought that U was exagerrating tge deotgif how badkt nt soekkubg abd punctuation are ruggt biw, U guve tiy tgus oaragraog as evudebce if giw carefykkt U gave ti wrtie right now. It is exhausting. It us difficult. It is stull worth the effirt, because I think that my story is inportant to tell and feel that the wirj isworth is. But it is hard, and time-intensive, to say the least. They longer I Type, the better U get at it, and I knot that it will akk come back in time, but for now... this is me, unedted.

Translation:

Some of you, I'm sure, have thought that I was exaggerating the depth of how bad my spelling and punctuation are right now. I give you this paragraph as evidence of how carefully I have to write right now. It is exhausting. It is difficult. It is also still worth the effort, because I think that my story is an important story to tell and feel that the work is worth it. But it is hard, and time-intensive, to say the least. The longer I type, the better I get at it, and I know that it will all come back in time, but for now... this is me, unedited.

This isn't the first time that motor skill loss has been a side effect of a surgery. I've lost the ability to type with prior surgeries. It's like that part of my brain shuts down. (Reading is really difficult as well. Letters swim on paper, and I get really dizzy after just a few minutes.) It's a hard thing to live with - frustrating (and some days, scary as hell, because who am I without my words?!), but I trust that the ability to type, read ... work with words ... will come back, as it has with surgeries past.

In the meanwhile, know that there is a very real reason that some posts are delayed. If I'm having a hard day, or am more tired than usual, the typing gets worse, so I have to delay posting until such a time that it doesn't cause greater frustration to write than it should.

*And here's the kicker: Today has been a good day (I'm just tired, but I feel pretty good), so that sample is really not such a great/terrible example of how bad my typing CAN be.

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9

Guess who pooped?

I'll give you a hint... It was the same girl who got to eat a scrambled egg for lunch today.

ME!

Blessed relief and hallelujah, because if I hadn't pooped by today, I was going to have to go the suppository route, which is never any fun. But I did it. On my own. (Well, with the help of literal hands full of laxatives and stool softeners and doses of MiraLax three nights in a row. ... Oh, right. And a whole lot of prayer. Yes, I pray that I'll be able to poop. Don't judge my relationship with the Lord. I'm pretty sure He's alright with me asking for help, in whatever way I need it.)

Tomorrow is my first follow-up with the surgeon. I'm so glad that I'll be able to tell him that I could still poop once they sent me home!

*Note: There will be updates to be had after said dr appt tomorrow. Hopefully, the size/weight of the tumor(s), as well as whether my "unremarkable" internal fluid had receded and if my platelet count has finally leveled out. I'm telling you, stay tuned for big news. (Insert eye roll here. ... I know it's semi-ridiculous that my life right now consists of poo and platelets. Won't it be great when I get better and we can go back to Richard Castle and/or Batman as reading/writing material? Honestly!)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 8

I don't usually think of myself as super strong. Truth be told, I am a weakling. Most 3 yr old girls have more upper body strength than I do, and I routinely use my AARP rubber/gripper to open milk bottles, juice bottles, spaghetti sauce jars... You get the picture.

Yes, I'm 37 and have an AARP rubber/gripper thing. My mom gave it to me when I moved down to Mesa. "Here", she said, "you're going to have a lot more use for this than I do."

But today, today I think I am super tough. You wanna know why? I will tell you.

I puked my guts up this morning at about 5:00. I have no idea why. I just did. Right into my favorite blanket, sitting on the edge of my recliner, I lost it.

I may never eat blackberries again. (You may quote me.)

And then I got out of my recliner, brushed my teeth and crawled back into bed, where, blessed relief and hallelujah, I was able to sleep for a couple hours.

I woke up at 7:30 and decided that I needed to go on a walk. So, I got myself out of bed, woke Mom up and we did a loop around the parking lot.

And this, my friends, is what has made me feel invincible today. I was pukey this morning, but I still went on a walk. It may have been a short walk, but it was a walk. And I did it w/o food in my body, on the brink of needing another dose of pain meds. Because I knew that going on a walk was what I needed to do.

It's on days like this, even when I'm tired and worn out and wondering how and when I'll ever be well again, that I am aware of and grateful for the knowledge that I will be given exactly the strength that I need to have in order to accomplish the tasks that I need to accomplish.

Today, I am SuperWoman. ... Mind you, I'm SuperWoman in need of three or more naps a day, but still... I am SuperWoman.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

July 7

Here's a little glimpse into the life of me, for anyone who's curious about how much I sleep/eat or poo. (I know that my public - esp my mother - loves it when I get graphic about the poo.)

11:00 PM - I went to sleep in my bed.

12:30 AM - Mom woke me up to give me a pain pill.

2:50 AM - I woke up in pain in my bed (darn gravity) and toddled out to the recliner.

4:30 AM - Mom woke me up to give me a pain pill.

5:40 AM - I woke Mom to eat breakfast (small bowl of Grape Nut Flakes) and go on a walk.

6:00 AM - Out the door to go on a totally lame walk through my parking lot and around the corner before I gave in to heat (and pain) exhaustion and headed home.

7:00 AM - Crawled back into bed.

8:30 AM - Mom woke me up to give me a pain pill. I went back to sleep.

9:20 AM - I got out of bed and came and sat in the recliner.

11:00 AM - I ate a piece of toast (with too much butter) for a snack.

11:20 AM - I took a shower and washed my hair. (Biggest mistake of my life. Washing my hair pretty much took all of my energy and trashed the rest of the day.)

12:30 PM - Mom gave me another pain pill.

12:45 PM - I went back to bed.

3:20 PM - I woke up in pain, so I got out of bed and came out to the recliner. (Sense a theme?)

4:00 PM - I had a wholesome snack (dinner) of 5 baby carrots and a glass of water.

4:30 PM - Mom gave me another pain pill.

5:30 PM - I went back to bed.

7:20 PM - I got out of bed and ate 10 Wheat Thins and 15 blackberries (biggest meal of the day).

7:30 PM - Mom and I headed back out on another walk. (I don't know how effective going on a walk is when I can barely make it out of the parking lot, but I like to think that the effort brings with it some blessings.)

7:45 PM - I drank too much water out on my walk and put myself back in that weird place where my left shoulder hurts when I'm too full. We came right home.

8:05 PM - In an effort to make my stupid body poo (beyond the daily laxatives and whatnot), I've decided that I need to make myself sit on the toilet for at least 5 minutes every couple hours. (I know, that was a gross overshare. But by now, you've got to know that I do that. Overshare, I mean.) Mind you, I haven't pooed since Monday, so I have a super gassy stomach. (We're talking, it reminds me of the smoke monster on Lost, it's so rattly and angry-sounding.) I sat on the toilet for five minutes and nothing. ... I got up and went about the after-business of washing my hands only to have this HUGE amount of gas pass. My stupid contrary body won't do anything I want it to, when I want it to. (Insert eye roll here.)

8:30 PM - Mom gave me another pain pill.

9:00 PM - I finally caught up on my texts and listened to my voice mails for the day.

9:05 PM - Passed the phone off to Mom so she could call Dad and he could give her the report for the fundraiser today. (Turns out he went down at about 4:00 and helped cook fry bread. Bless the entire Plumb family for working as hard as they did: Ruby, Katy, Lane, Howdy, etc., Velda, etc., and a whole bunch of neighborhood kids who I've known and loved their whole lives.)

9:47 - I breathed into my torture device. I still can't get past 1,000. Blast.

10:00 - I drank another double dose of laxatives and put myself to bed.

Here's hoping that tomorrow, I'll actually poo. ... Stupid body.

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 6

I have the best friends and family in the world, I really do. I've been getting a lot of texts, FB messages, emails and voicemails all week....asking how I'm feeling, what I'm eating, how I'm doing and if there's anything that can be done to help me. In the interest of saving every single one of my cousins, ward members, friends from home and other assorted and varied persons in my life some time, I thought I'd do another Q & A post and share some of the most basic information with my public.

Note: This does not mean that you aren't allowed to text, FB, email and/or call me after you've read this post, should you have additional questions that weren't addressed, or if you'd just like a more personal conversation. Just be prepared for a delay in return communication, esp if you call. I'm not answering any phone calls right now, because it's really hard for me to talk on the phone. After hours in surgery, with my lungs slowed/stopped, it's really hard for me to get a deep enough breath to support/sustain my voice. Anyone who calls me either gets a text back from me, or a call from my mother. There's also a delay in FB and email, as I'm having a hard time getting my right hand to type. I allow myself to check/answer emails twice a day, tops, because it is time-intensive and incredibly frustrating to have to literally watch my right hand to make sure it stays on the correct keys and types the letters I'm intending it to. (This also explains why I'm not blogging a lot this week. It's exhausting. And frankly, I've got enough going on that makes me tired these days.) If you text and I'm awake, I'll text you right back. If you text and I'm asleep, I'll text you when I either a) wake up or b) finally pick up my phone and notice that I have 24 new texts. (I did not make that number up, folks. It happens.)

So, with that little disclaimer aside, let's get back to the Q & A:

Q: How are you feeling?

A: Like I lost a bar fight. A really bad one. (Note: I've never actually been in a bar fight. I've just seen a lot of them on TV, esp in my recent Netflix run of Magnum PI. And the kind of bar fight I'm talking about having lost is the kind where you get hit on top of the head with a bottle, fall to the floor, and then get kicked in the gut about a million times before TC finally breaks it up.) The pain in my left side is brutal. And it's unrelenting. The bar-fight-sore is how I feel when I'm right smack in the middle of a pain-pill cycle. During the last half hour of the cycle, and for the first half hour of the next, as I'm waiting for the new drugs to kick in, I do my best not to move, because the pain is excruciating.

I have a weird pain my left shoulder. It started when I came out of surgery, and it was assumed it was air/gas bubbles that had traveled and gotten caught during surgery. (I know, that sounds crazy, but it's happened before in my other surgeries, so it's not an unfamiliar pain to me.) When I had to drink the barium on Saturday and promptly vomited into the hospital trash can, I hurt it some more. (I'd thought I might have dislocated it, but the nursing staff assured me that it wasn't dislocated and it was probably just pulled muscles.) When I eat too much or sleep funny, my left shoulder hurts so bad that it's hard to breathe. It's awesome.

For some reason, my right arm won't bend beyond a 90 degree angle. It'll stretch out even with my shoulder, but there's absolutely no getting it above my head without my other arm holding it up. This makes washing my hair incredibly difficult, and let's not even talk about shaving under that arm. (Just don't judge me for looking like an unwashed  refugee, should you happen to see me on one of my (very short) walks around the neighborhood.) What I'm saying is, my hair is beyond its normal state of un-washed and I have one (count it, one) hairy armpit. Sexy.
Q: How are you sleeping?

A: Fairly well, considering I have both a fabulous bed and a fabulous La-Z-Boy recliner. At night, I go to bed in my bed, where I sleep for 3-4 hours before the pain caused by gravity starts to hurt my side and abdomen. Then, I toddle into the living room and crawl into my recliner and sleep for another 3-4 hours in a semi-reclined position. I try to take all my naps in my bed, because the rest of my day is spent in the recliner. ... I mix it up as much as I can. I'm just grateful for two really comfortable pieces of furniture. I don't know how I'd do this without both of them!

Q: Can I bring you a meal?

A: Sadly, no, because my current diet is beyond bizarre. But thanks for offering.

Q: What are you eating?

A: A whole lotta fiber: Wheat Thins, Wheat Chex, Grape Nut Flakes, Shredded Wheat, wheat toast, blackberries, blueberries, green smoothies, bran pancakes with apricot puree in lieu of syrup (the best thing I've eaten all week, actually - twice), cashews, very small amounts of vanilla yogurt and one scrambled egg at a time (both of which I'm now cut off of, since I haven't pooped since Monday).

Q: You haven't pooped since Monday?!

A: Nope. And I'm taking between 4-6 stool softeners and laxatives a day - PLUS I'm drinking a hardcore laxative every night. Pain meds = constipation, in a fierce way. I'm super burpy, which hurts like the dickens, but I'm trying to be grateful that gas is getting out of my body, even if it is in a very small (and probably inconsequential) way. ... Just call me Pollyanna, looking for the silver lining.

Q: How long did your surgery take?

A: Five and a half hours.

Q: What, exactly, did they take out of you?
A: A couple tumors (the exact size of which I am still waiting to get a report on), my left kidney, my spleen, a section of my colon and as much of my retroperitoneum as Dr. G could scrape out of me. ... The results of which are the bar-fight feeling I referenced earlier, and an unholy amount of swelling. To give you an idea of the swelling: On my right side, when I lift my shirt, you can see a hollow under my ribcage. On the left side, it's still all puffy and round and my ribcage is indecipherable, even though that's the side that had multiple organs taken from it. ... To give further swelling info that's going to border on TMI (one of the things I do best, to be sure): the swelling goes all the way down to my pubic bone. If I'm lying flat in bed, there's a noticeable difference in size of my left to right lower abdomen. If I push on the right side of my pubic bone, there's little to no discomfort. If I push on the left side of my pubic bone, the pain in excruciating.

Q: Does it get easier to heal when you have the same surgery multiple times? As in, your body gets used to it, so it adjusts and heals faster?

A: No, sadly, it does not get easier to heal as I have the same/similar surgery over and over again. I'm sorry to report that it actually gets harder to heal with each and every one. My body is getting older. Every time I'm under anesthesia for hours at a time, it doesn't do my internal organs any good. And, especially with this surgery, where there was so much more than a tumor taken.... recovery is long and hard. The one upside to having had similar surgeries is emotional/intellectual, in that - on the really rough days when I think I might just die if I have to try and take one more incredibly painful breath - I know that things will get easier/better, if I just hang in there. I know that I'll heal and I'll be able to sleep for more than 4 hours at a time, and I'll be able to sneeze without screaming from the pain, and eventually my bowels will go back to normal and my diet can go back to cake and ice cream with a side of popcorn... because I've been cut open before, and I've healed before. Is my body the same as it was three years ago, pre-tumor #1? No. Multiple surgeries and radiation have done a number on it, BUT I know that in a few weeks time, I'll feel a lot more like my normal self, and within a few months, I'll have my new/old body back and I'll be able to do so many of the things that I'm not able to do now.

So, I guess the long and short of this post is... I feel like crap. I mean, crappy, crappy, crap. Almost all the time. Until my pain meds wear off, and then I feel worse. .... But I know that I'll get better, because I always have. It takes time and patience and a whole lot of tears and work and prayer, but I will get better. Again. I know it.

Recovery is a long, hard road. And there are a lot of things that I have to do by myself. ... But when I lift my head and look around, there are ALWAYS people on the sidelines who love me, just watching and waiting their turn, trying to find a way and an appropriate time to jump in and help me. And for these people (you people), I am grateful. You make healing so much easier than it would be if I truly had to do it on my own. Thank you for helping me, each of you, in whatsoever way that you can. I love you!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 4

Have I talked here before about my hometown and how totally awesome it is? ... Oh, I have? Well, I'm sorry, because you're going to have to hear it again. Brace yourself: My hometown is totally awesome!

I mean, A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

From the way that the baseball park is the center of the universe in the summertime (and this from a non-sporty girl who'd rather cut her own hair with sheep shears than watch a baseball game ... but I'll totally go to the ballpark with friends and get something from the concession stand ... because I heart SnoCones), to the Jennings Band and the firing of the anvil on the 4th of July, to the cashiers at the grocery stores who always remember my name (even though I haven't lived there in over 6 years).

From the sunsets, to the corn fields, to the irrigation water, to the smell of farm land...

To the people.

The people who gather around and support each other in times of trial and hardship.

Taylor is the best, and I could not be prouder to come from this tiny little town that takes care of its own.

Which brings me to the ultimate fundraiser that's being held in my honor this Saturday. ... And this, folks, is when you know you've hit the big time in my hometown. Because as awesome as a bake-sale in front of Bashas' is - and it really is pretty darn fantastic - a Navajo Taco benefit dinner  is like the Holy Grail of fundraisers in Taylor Town. (And I'm not just saying this because of my deep and abiding love of fried bread. ... Really, I'm not.)

The Navajo Taco Fundraiser




That's right. It's official. As we all know, I need help, and one of my favorite Taylor families has decided to do something about it. ... And because we all know that my favorite charity right now is ... uhh... Me, and that I have no qualms asking the general public (but esp friends from my hometown) for their hard-earned money, I've decided to help them publicize the upcoming event.

Katy Chee, Ruby Plumb and Velda Martin are the masterminds, cooks and beloved friends of mine who organized the fundraiser, and here are the details:

Date: Saturday, July 7th
Time: 11:30 AM - 7:30 PM
Location: Katy's house (500 E 12 N, Taylor)
Cost: $6 a plate, or $30 to purchase six plates to feed a family

They will be cooking in Katy's kitchen, and Navajo Tacos are available for pick-up (or delivery, within Taylor and/or Snowflake city limits) between 11:30 and 7:30 on Saturday. Walk-up purchases are welcomed, but pre-orders are appreciated, as that will help them gauge how many supplies they will need to purchase in preparation for The Big Day.

To pre-order, call: Ruby at 928-536-7469. If you're unable to reach Ruby, Katy will be available to take orders in the evenings after 5:00 at 928-229-0142.

Ruby has also hand-crafted a quilt that they'll be raffling off. Raffle tickets for the quilt are $1 apiece or you can get six tickets for $5. Tickets can be purchased at the time the Navajo Tacos are picked up, and the winner will be notified within 24 hours.

Note: If purchasing Navajo Tacos to feed your family of 11 isn't in the budget for you this weekend, but you still want to help or do something, do not fear. There are other, non-monetary, ways in which you can help/contribute. As mentioned above, the Navajo Tacos will be available for pick-up or delivery between 11:30 and 7:30 on Saturday. Delivery drivers are most certainly welcomed. Call Katy to make arrangements to help with deliveries, or anything else she might find herself in need of.

These women took it upon themselves to work themselves to the bone on Saturday in an effort to contribute to the Cancer Girl Cause. I have known them my whole life, and few and far between are the women in my life who are as Christlike, as self-less and as service-oriented as the Plumb girls are. I love them!

So, please... Please, help these sweet ladies help me. Be it through downing a plate (or three - I won't judge) of fried bread covered in beans and cheese and other goodness, in purchasing a raffle ticket, or in helping them by being support staff behind-the-scenes. Whatever you can do, however you can help... it will be appreciated.

In advance, I thank my loyal (and local to The White Mountains) readers for your help in getting the word out, and  your support of this fundraiser this weekend.

*Lest any of you sweet readers think that I cooked such a delicious looking Navajo Taco in my current state of weakness, purely to be able to take a picture and post a visual online (also, I don't want to be sued for using their image), I must disclaim: Picture of Navajo Taco courtesy of Taste of Home (http://www.tasteofhome.com/).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 3

I am home.

After:

Twelve days in the hospital

One nephrectomy

One splenectomy

One colectomy

One repaired hernia

Removal of a liposarcomic (liposarcomac?) mass

Not to mention:

The hole they poked in my jugular

A double transfusion. While I was awake. (Did I mention the hole in my jugular? That's what they pumped the blood through.) Thank HEAVEN for two good friends who visited that night and took my mind off the quarts of blood being pumped into my body - through a hole in my neck. (Still gagging, just thinking about it.)

An additional CT on Saturday, which confirmed that I have some excess fluids where my organs used to be. This also explained some of the inexplicable pain I'd been feeling in that region. (For any interested parties, the fluid was deemed "unremarkable". It is assumable that my body will absorb the excess as part of the healing process. Here's hoping they're right, because I'm beyond creeped out at the thought of fluid just sloshing around in there.)

An epic vomit-a-thon, brought on by the barium I had to drink for said CT. ... Enter living through one of the Top Ten Worst Fears of My Life: Puking My Guts Up, Days Within Surgery, When My Stomach is (literally) Stapled Together. I lived through it. Barely. ... That was a special day in my life,  followed closely by the gas-and-diarrhea-fest that was getting rid of the rest of the barium (I'd only puked up the first 1/3 of the pitcher of barium), 24 hours later. Again, living through a gut bomb is never fun. But on the heels of abdominal surgery, when you have to hold a pillow to your stomach in an effort to push from the outside, making a conscious effort not to scream out loud whilst pushing.... That was a special, special experience

(Note: For the 13,284th time, I would not recommend abdominal surgery. Ever. Unless it's truly your only option. And at that point, do whatever you can not to ingest anything that's going to have to come out of your body in a fast, furious or otherwise painful manner.)

Oh, and one middle-of-the-night (not sure why I feel that I have to disclaim that, but I do) "accident" because I got so tangled up in my bed and my breathing apparatus that I couldn't make it to the toilet in time


Last night, they released me from the hospital. I may be less a few organs and plus some new aches and pains, but other than that... I'm still me. Only, now I get to be me at home and not at the hospital anymore.

That's right. After, like, half a month spent in the hopsital (not cheap rent either, I tell you)...

I am home.